Becoming mentally healthy isn’t just about taking the right meds and seeing a shrink. It’s a lifestyle change. There are many factors such as diet and sleep that can affect your mood. It’s also very important to be aware of who you surround yourself with.
If you are a recovering alcoholic, the last things you need to be around are bars and people who drink, especially in the early days of your recovery. It will obviously get easier with time, but while the recovery is in its infancy, temptation and outside factors can set you back tremendously. It can make things a lot harder than they need to be and can lead to falling off the wagon. The same most certainly goes for depression.
If you have made concerted efforts to improve your quality of life and face the depression head on with doctors, medication and a change of lifestyle, it can be very challenging to be around others who are depressed. I have had to take stock of who I surround myself with and determine whether they are actually helping me recover or are detrimental to my health. While the natural instinct is to think “hey, I’ve sorted myself out, I can help others”, it is usually far more difficult than that. It is much easier for someone in a depressive state to bring you down to their mood instead of you being able to elevate theirs. I’ve had a few people in my life I have had to disassociate myself with because I was always brought down to their emotional level and I would be left questioning how healthy I really was. It was the perception of me being unhealthy to make that person feel better, rather than the reality that I was recovering and they were not. Misery loves company.
I find it very hard to be around people who suffer from chronic depression who do not take strides to get better. This may sound elitist, but the reality is, my health and happiness are more important than enabling someone else’s depression. I have no time for people who constantly remind me of who I used to be. Part of the process of healing is forgiving yourself for previous mistakes and taking ownership of them. This can become a lot harder if someone is constantly reminding you of your previous mistakes and relapses or are quick to jump on you for a current mistake by saying your meds need adjusting. I know who I used to be and I have taken steps to correct that. If I’m having an off day, which we are all allowed, depression or not (I will get into this more in a later blog), I don’t need to told that I am falling back into my old ways and I just up or change my meds. I’m not. I’m just having an off day.
That’s not to say that you should ignore people who say your mood is changing. My wife is one of my core group who can tell if my mood is off. I trust her advice implicitly. She doesn’t say it out of anger or spite. Usually I can feel that something isn’t quite right by the time she tells me, but it’s good affirmation that I may need to increase my meds for a few days.
I’m not saying to do a massive friend purge, but give your circle an overview to make sure people who claim to be on your side actually are.